Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Death and Taxes

Fair warning – this post is going to get a bit morbid and depressing and will probably offend someone. If you’re just here for the crafts…skip this post. Also – I have no point.

My mom has this expression that I just love. Whenever we would hear on the news about this percent of people dying of such and such disease or that such & such increases your risk of dying by whatever percent - she would kinda laugh and say “Well guess what? 100% of people die!” I’m pretty sure I’ve adopted her pragmatic view of death. We’re all gonna die someday so there’s not much point getting all worked up about it, or scared, or go to insane lengths to avoid it. Neither of us have a death wish. We wear our seat-belts and go to the doctor and make sure there’s a non-slip mat in the shower. But she’s made it clear that if she were ever really sick or injured she wouldn’t want to be kept on life support indefinitely… and neither would I. Now she has a firm belief in an afterlife… and if there is a heaven I know she’s earned her place. Even though I’m less sure of what happens after we die, I am comfortable with the idea of the great sleep, of my existence finally coming to an end (hopefully not anytime soon – there are plenty more things I’d like to do first!) and decomposing back into the earth – pushing up daisies – oooh or daffodils! Well, actually I’d rather be buried at sea… but still the idea of ashes to ashes is something I can deal with.

It seems to me that we live in a culture where death is feared and to be avoided at ANY cost. Doctors come up with painful and invasive ways of diagnosing and treating diseases. People whose natural lives should, by all rights, be over linger on with feeding tubes and life support machines. To me – that’s not life! (eta - I was watching this show on PBS where they kept talking about ways to avoid "premature death" as though somehow we were all entitled to live to be 80-90-100 if only we consume enough omega-6 fatty acids and avoid refined carbohydrates - it just bugged me.)

I can understand it more when people go to extraordinary lengths to extend the life of an infant or child… because in a child there is so much potential for life to be lived. But what I can’t condone are the numerous lawsuits parents have filed when doctors were unable to miraculously save a child born with serious life-threatening defects. Yes, gross negligence should be punished… but once the child is dead and gone, all the money in the world won’t bring them back.

I think we’ve lost sight of the time when the leading cause of death for women was childbirth, and when more women than not had lost at least one child in infancy. Of course I’m thrilled that’s no longer the case. But it seems like these days we’re meant to believe that if the stick turns blue – you’re guaranteed a healthy baby. And if, heaven forbid, that’s not the case – well clearly it’s something the mother did wrong… too much caffeine, not enough folic acid, too old, too active, whatever, whatever. It’s like we refuse to accept that sometimes these things; terrible, sad, tragic things, just happen. Sometimes babies die and it’s nobody’s fault. I can’t even imagine how horrible it is for the mother (or father for that matter). But it happens… death is a part of life… and I admire the courage of women who have experienced this and have talked about their reality of it. Because it feels very much like we’re not supposed to talk about such things.

And as much as it concerns me – our inability to come to terms with our own mortality, it’s nothing, not even close to how disturbed I am by what people are willing to do to keep their PETS alive! I love my Sally-girl dearly, I do. I spend disturbing amounts of money on her care & feeding to manage her allergies. But if she ever got really sick, or life-threateningly injured – I would let her go. I’m sure I would spend several days before and after crying my eyes out… but I would have the vet euthanize her if she could no longer live her (rather pampered I must say) normal kitty life. I’m also not about to confine her to the apartment to keep her safe from whatever dangers (real or imagined) exist in the outdoor world. If she got hit by a car – I’d be sad, I’d cry, in the shock of it I’d probably be mad at the person driving the car… but I know that it’s a possibility… it’s a risk. But that’s what life is – it’s a risk.

We can live our lives in safe little boxes, doing everything we can to prevent or forestall death, pretending that somehow we can avoid it… but that’s hardly living. I should know – I’m living in one of those safe little boxes right now – and honestly it’s boring as hell. Of course I’m not suggesting anyone take up smoking or playing in traffic. But maybe we all need just a healthy appreciation for the fact that we’re going to die someday, and learn to live a little. (BTW - if you do learn to live a little – please tell me how. I’ve dealt with my fear of death but haven’t quite dealt with my fear of life!)

Oh yeah… I’ve talked about death… now taxes. Hmm… I still haven’t done them. Even though my financial situation is about as uncomplicated as they get and I’m pretty sure I’ll be getting a refund, I’m completely unmotivated to do the paperwork. Maybe I won’t do it this year. What’s the worst that could happen?

They don’t call me Rebel for nothing.

Actually yes they do...

Don’t worry – I’ll file my tax return…eventually.


Bezzie said...

Oof. Let's not think about people running over cats with cars!

Trillian42 said...

Brava for being willing to say what so many people won't.

I think taking reasonable precautions to prevent death and injury is the smart thing to do, but when you take that overboard, you stop LIVING. And if you aren't living life, well, what's the point?

Rebel said...

bezzie - I'm just saying it happens and if it's not a car, it'll be something else

trillian - yeah... I need to do more living!

Chicklit said...

Book rec for you: The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Die by David Shields. Not sure if it's out yet or coming soon, but it sounds interesting.

I agree. I've never understood postponing the inevitable when the quality of life is gone. That applies to pets or people.

But I'm not clear on what we do that prevents death. That part's not terribly clear to me.

Beverly said...

I have written a comment about 10 times and deleted it before posting. Can't seem to get my thoughts together today. So I'll just say this...

Taxes. Dammit. I haven't done ours yet. Thanks for the reminder.

Magatha said...

You know I live with chronic pain and a little mantra I use bugs the crap outta any shrink I might be so stupid as to recite it too, "There is always Death". No I am NOT suicidal, but I look upon Death as a great friend in my future, my last resort. Pain will cease after Death and I have that to look forward too no matter how difficult this moment now might be.

My other philosophies are "Nurture is Cruel" and "It's hard to take the world as it came." We, especially the entitlement gens of Americans, don't think we have to be victims of nature. We are nature. There is no escaping its power for long, no matter what clever monkeys we are.
We will try though.
I've got a no brain activity? no resuscitate order in my living will. I am not going to happy Jesus land when I die, but I am most likely going back to where I came from and I don't remember it so it couldn't be that bad.
Excellent post.

Magatha said...

Yeah, Nuture was cruel too, but I meant "Nature is Cruel."
Argh. Brain damage.

Rebel said...

chicklit - I'll have to check out that book

beverly - don't worry, when I got up this morning I thought about deleting my entire post. Good luck with the taxes!

mags - I know where you're coming from. I have chronic (although not debilitating) knee pain. Nature is cruel, and sometimes you just have to "embrace the suck" as it were.

Zonda said...

Interesting post! :) Makes one think.